Cheeky Sods Drive BBQ Bus onto Midsummer Common

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011. 2:03am

'Cheeky Sods' in the Big Green Egg BBQ Bus on Midsummer Common

“Cheeky Sods” in the Big Green Egg BBQ Bus on Midsummer Common

Due to inconsiderate people damaging the grass BBQs and fires have become a contentious issue on Jesus Green and Midsummer Common in recent years. There have also been many problems with vehicles churning up the grass and damaging the edges of paths on both spaces.

Given this background it was astonishing that earlier today barbecue producer and distributor Big Green Egg decided to roll onto Midsummer Common with a large green open top bus and a motorhome. They appeared to be barbecuing using an array of differently sized cooking devices from the top deck of the bus. You really couldn’t make it up.

At the time I came across the antics the demonstration did not appear to have attracted any public attention, but many cyclists found their paths blocked by the vehicles and a number of people were photographing the vehicles on the common, recording registration numbers, and discussing the fact that they shouldn’t be there.

Cambridge City Council’s Green Spaces manager, Alistair Wilson, turned up. Presumably someone had called the council. I asked him if he knew anything about the BBQ bus and if the council had given them permission to operate on the common. Mr Wilson said: “no” and branded the BBQ salesmen:

“Cheeky Sods”

Mr Wilson and a colleague (perhaps a security or legal officer?) escorted the vehicles off the common; forcing the bus to reverse all the way out to Victoria Avenue so as not to cause any further damage to the grass. (The council is currently re-seeding a number of areas next to the paths). The entourage was expelled with only a few small branches of a weeping willow being torn down and a little contact between the roof of the bus and the Horse Chestnut tree at the entrance to the common.

'Cheeky Sods' in the Big Green Egg BBQ Bus being expelled from Midsummer Common

“Cheeky Sods” in the Big Green Egg BBQ Bus being expelled from Midsummer Common

Cambridge City Council levy charges for those using the commons for events; presumably Big Green Egg will be getting an invoice.

Those operating the bus, BBQ and motorhome had New Zealand or South African accents. Big Green Egg appears to be a USA based company. The UK distributor for Big Green Egg is Alfresco Concepts UK based in Great Bircham near Kings Lynn.

Soft Enforcement

A week or so ago I was interviewed for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire following Liberal Democrat Cllr Cantrill’s announcement that Cambridge City Council will be adopting a policy of “soft enforcement” of the laws which forbid fires and barbecues on the green spaces. While wishy washy and typically Liberal Democrat this is a slight improvement on the position Cllr Cantrill took last year when he equivocated and decided not to support enforcement of the rules banning BBQs.

Speaking at the last full council meeting Arbury Liberal Democrat Cllr Tim Ward expressed support for bonfires on Midsummer Common, and for youngsters to drink alcohol at them – arguing that was a relatively safe place and manner for young teenagers to go out drinking.

Earlier this year the Liberal Democrat run council placed signs on many of the city’s green spaces, including Midsummer Common and Jesus Green pointing out fires are banned and citing the relevant legislation. The signs do not espouse the true fence sitting attitude and approach to enforcement currently being taken.

The council is to provide a BBQ platform on Jesus Green, but demand will surely exceed supply on many summer days. It is not yet clear if those using the council provided facilities will be given an exemption from the ban on fires, or if the council is planning to build something it would be illegal to use.

The damage to the grass from last year’s BBQs is still visible. My view is that Cllr Cantrill, as the councillor with responsibility for the city’s green spaces, ought be conserving the city’s green spaces and ought be prepared to defend them against reckless vandalism.

While it was great to see the council swiftly act against the Big Green Egg BBQs, I hope they will also take action against those who while not drawing attention to themselves by turning up in a huge open top double decker bus with three BBQs on top, do more damage with simple disposable BBQs placed directly on the grass.

11 comments/updates on “Cheeky Sods Drive BBQ Bus onto Midsummer Common

  1. Lucy

    I think the enforcers should be able to give the bbq users a minute warning, whilst they go to the cam and get a bucket of water to put the fire out. If the user can find a way of raising the bbq off the grass then problem is solved, if not the water should do the trick! A few damp bbqs might give the community the message that bbqs are discouraged.

    I’ve cycled across Jesus Green many times and noticed people having bbqs, not noticing the no fires sign, so unless I read this blog I’m not sure I’d be aware that there was a no bbq policy.

  2. John Lawton

    The issue here is that the Council is simply not enforcing their own rule concerning closure of the gate at the Fort St George / Midsummer House restaurant with the businesses concerned.

    At the recent Friends of Midsummer Common AGM, the manager of the pub complained about the gate being tie-wrapped closed, but this was presumably in reaction to the flagrant disregard for the rules by the businesses concerned.

    Presently, the Council is merely ‘monitoring’ the situation.

    Until the Council discovers its backbone, and enforces the rule that the gate must be kept closed by the businesses, then all and sundry, like this bus will just keep driving onto the common.

  3. Kevin

    I do wonder what the legal issue of members of the public reporting things such as illegal parking, or in this case trespass and damage and the ‘authorities’ reacting to them are. I doubt that parking tickets can be retrospectively applied and I’d be surprised if despite evidence of something like this bus arriving existing in photo/video form anything could be done unless it was actually seen by someone official. Am I right? If so it’s time to change things.

    As for BBQ’s I love the idea of enforcement. BBQ’s on the grass all over the green spaces in Cambridge, over on Llammas land, by the Mill Pond, on Parkers Piece (especially in the summer with all the language schoool students) are really taking the preverbial. It would be so so easy to have someone going round enforcing the rules (and remember ignorance is not an excuse) by sparying their fires with a fire extinguisher or buckets of water. I’m all up for being a member of a concerned member of the public brigade doing this job ;)

  4. Edward

    Glad to see some enforcement here.

    I’d also like to see a crackdown on the mopeds that frequently cut across Stourbridge Common.

    Sadly I’ve never managed to catch the numberplate of one, but it is a problem that needs to be suppressed.

  5. Kevin

    I have many hundreds photos of cyclists breaking the law cycling on pavements going through red lights and also photos of cars parking illegally, do you think the police would like copies? ;)

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    It appears Midsummer House now has one of these BBQs, chained to the riverside first floor balcony.

  7. Martin Bones

    Hi there. I have just been looking through this site in connection with another (distant) problem and wonder about the following.. I am working to resolve a similar problem in Essex.
    Midsummer House restaurant has a legal right of access to its property AT ANY TIME. This, of course is a legal right. They do not access it by permission of anybody. How can the council legally install an obstruction to this legal right. If the restaurant say “stuff the gate” surely they are in the right. If the gate breaks in the closed state, surely they have a legal right to remove this obstruction whatever this involves. They have no obligation to request the council to do it. So …. why is there a gate there?

  8. cobweb

    It’s a common therefore driving onto it is illegal (unless in certain circs.) The gate is supposed to control this behaviour but has so far failed.

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